Listening to school strikers is our greatest hope

August 15, 2019
Sydney Hiroshima Day protest on August 4. Photo: Peter Boyle

The world recently commemorated the anniversaries of the dropping of nuclear weapons on the people of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) in 1945. But it hasn't been a good few weeks for world peace.

Instead, we have seen a reckless and dangerous escalation of the possibility of war.

August 4 saw United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrogantly suggest during a visit to Australia that Darwin would be an ideal place to locate nuclear missiles.

Although Prime Minister Scott Morrison was in denial mode, we should be sceptical enough to realise that often on such matters “no means yes” — he just has to get the Australian public used to the idea first.

After all, former prime minister Julia Gillard gave the OK for the US to permanently base 2000 marines in Darwin.

They are still there.

Pompeo also used his visit to pressure Australia to join the coalition that is supposedly going to protect oil shipments in the Persian Gulf.

This sounds very similar to how Australia was led by the nose into the still ongoing war in Afghanistan 20 years ago.

Pompeo also suggested that China was just "a pile of soybeans", while in the US, President Donald Trump deepened his trade war against Australia's largest trading partner.

In recent weeks, there have also been attempts to change public opinion on how we see the world and our place in it.

For example, government spokespeople have been talking up the idea of nuclear power (anyone for a reactor in your neighbourhood?) and defence commentators have been touting the reprehensible idea of Australia developing a nuclear bomb.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki demonstrate that war and weaponry are the ultimate forms of environmental destruction.

Australia's experience of nuclear bombs at Maralinga has contributed to our long standing opposition to nuclear proliferation.

This public sentiment will have to be overturned if the Australian government is to agree to host a US nuclear arsenal in Darwin that would pose a real threat to China and the rest of the world.

Instead of listening to warmongering world leaders, we need to listen to young people who are mobilising for a global Climate Strike on September 20.

They are demanding system change, not climate change.

Steve O'Brien is a sociologist, peace activist and member of the Socialist Alliance. An earlier version of this article first appeared in the Newcastle Herald.]

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